Unique Lou Reed Celebration At Lincoln Center

loureedbanner2Lou Reed was a Rock & Roll original in every sense of the word, so it stands to reason that a celebration of his life would be unlike any other. Last Saturday’s The Bells: A Daylong Celebration Of Lou Reed certainly didn’t disappoint on the originality scale, or by all accounts, on the good vibes to be had.

Right off the bat, the location of the proceedings raised an eyebrow or two. The event took place at New York City’s Lincoln Center, home to the best of highbrow American culture. But Reed had an innate love for Art from the highest brow to the lowest. He was a patron of Jazz and Classical music, the Visual Arts as well as Rock & Roll. He actually made his own solo debut at Lincoln Center in 1973, and he shared a stage there with freeform Jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman in 1997.

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In the big picture Lou Reed carries such cultural significance that Lincoln Center was an entirely appropriate place to celebrate his life and work.

The day began at 10 a.m. with Reed’s tai chi master, a very important person in his life, leading a free class which was set to the sounds of Reed’s 2007 sonic landscape album Hudson River Wind Meditations. At 1 p.m. the Rock & Roll portion of the show was rolled out, which included contributions from Yo La Tengo, Jon Spencer, Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth, Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon, and quintessential East Village underground punker Jesse Malin. That’s one hell of a lineup.

Meanwhile, in the lobby of Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, Reed’s long-time guitar tech Stewart Hurwood tried to recreate Reed’s landmark noise album from 1975, Metal Machine Music. Hurwood played with a semi-circle of guitars and amps, manipulating the feedback at volumes so loud that earplugs were issued at the door. Safe to say the hallowed halls of Lincoln Center never heard anything like that before.

The evening portion of the event centered on Reed’s “love songs”, which as his wife and event organizer – and brilliant avant-garde artist – Laurie Anderson noted, cast a pretty wide swath since “love is complicated”. A cast of Reed’s friends, including Steve Buscemi, Julian Schnabel, Kim Cattrall and Anne Waldman, read his lyrics and poetry over a background of his experimental soundscapes.

Artists including Lucinda Williams, Garland Jeffries and Metric’s Emily Haines, in collaboration with New York’s Godfather of Rock Lenny Kaye, closed the evening with versions of Lou’s most poignant and personal material, finishing up with a big group singalong to “Sweet Jane”. I wish I had been there. The whole thing sounds like a Perfect Day.

Photo By Man Alive! (Lou Reed Uploaded by Yarl) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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